Sometimes it’s the small things that lead to the biggest changes.
Michael Myles has been using the programmes of the Education Minstry’s BEST – Behaviour Education Support Team – to bring about an improvement in the lives of the people of Cayman, more particularly Cayman’s youth.
One of the examples Myles uses to show other parents that surviving and thriving through difficult circumstances can absolutely happen is the story of a young woman, Markeisha Myles (no relation to Michael), and her son, Amari.
“The night I met Markeisha, I went to her house – my wife and I – and I sat there looking at Amari,” Myles said. “Here’s this kid that the school said to me was kicking, cutting up – there was a lot of anger, a lot of hostility – but the night I went to meet this kid, Markeisha opened the door and he didn’t know me from anywhere.
“And he hugged me up and we were playing. And I’m thinking, is this the same kid? Here was this loving kid.”
Myles knew there was a problem, but couldn’t quite pinpoint it. Not yet, at least.
Markeisha was in a relationship that wasn’t working.
“I saw a behavioural change in Amari. Amari started acting out in school – kicking, punching, slapping teachers, children, everything,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know where to go, who to ask for help.”
At the time she was out of work. So she was staying with Amari’s aunt, which didn’t turn out too well. And she became pregnant.
With the transition of moving from one place to the next, it obviously didn’t help Amari.
“He started acting out because we didn’t have a stable home,” Markeisha said. “We were sleeping on the sofa, so I had to make Amari stay with his dad for a couple of weeks. And it came to the point where I didn’t have a place to stay because of the situation between me and his aunt – we weren’t getting along.
“I slept on the beach for two days, two nights with my pregnant belly. And I didn’t have anywhere to go.”
Markeisha finally moved back to her mother’s house. And the situation in school with Amari got so bad that his teacher – Ms Ebanks at the time – came to her and said they needed to look into counselling at the schools.
“Every time I got in an argument or fight (at home), the week after he would act up in school,” she said. “So I told myself I had to get out of that because it was affecting my child.”
“There was that pinpoint moment when I was just overwhelmed with calls from the school,” Markeisha said. “I was so tired of hearing about Amari’s behaviour. And me not being in a job, I was just stressed out. And I was pregnant. And I had no where to live.
“That’s when I became more involved because I know from the time you get a certain age, especially boys, you have to start putting a grip on them before they get out of hand.”
Amari’s teacher told her about Michael Myles, the Education Ministry’s programme coordinator and liaison officer for at-risk youth.
“And we started going to counselling first at the school – I would go every lunch time. And they introduced me to this parenting class… I took my lunchtime every Wednesday and I went to (the counsellor) and he explained to me what to do and helped me, guided me along the way,” she said.
“Mr. Michael has helped me a lot with Amari in regards to taking him out, making sure his schoolwork was done, giving him the attention he needed, and just being there for him. And me being a single parent, that’s what Amari was missing – a father figure. And Mr. Michael filled that somehow. And it has improved Amari. Amari’s so excited to see him every time.”
“One of the things we recognized was that Amari was going from school to home, home to school,” Myles said. “There was no in between. There was no socialisation. So when he went to school, he was living it up. He made the best of it.”
Myles told Markeisha that Amari had to get involved with other programmes.
“We got him involved in Scouts. And he loved it. We got him involved with football. He loved it. We got him involved with the skateboarding group that goes to the skate park. And he loved it,” Myles said.
“And then I said that I really wanted to mentor this kid. And that’s when I got involved,” he added. “Him and I have a great time. And I hold him accountable. If he doesn’t get good grades in school, he doesn’t spend the time with me. I call the school when Markeisha can’t.”
Ultimately, Myles and Markeisha knew they needed to get him assessed – an educational assessment.
“And that’s how BEST works. All the programmes that Markeisha went through fell under BEST,” he said. “Counselling fell under BEST. Parenting classes fell under BEST. Getting this kid glasses. Getting him the hospital screening, the after-school programmes. They all fall under BEST.”
One of the last steps was getting Markeisha set up so she could also focus on bettering herself.
“Markeisha said she wanted to get her life together – she wanted to get a job,” Myles said. “So I told her to send me her resume. And forwarded it on to PWC, and that made a world of difference to her.”
On the first visit to Markeisha’s house, Myles noticed something.
“Her TV was on. And I noticed he was sitting only about a yard from the TV and he was squinting,” he said. “So I asked Markeisha if he has a vision problem.”
In school, he was sitting in the back of the class because of his behavioural problems. He couldn’t see the class projects and discussion – he couldn’t see what was going on.
Amari never communicated to Markeisha that he had vision problems.
“He needed glasses and we didn’t know,” she said. “So Mr. Michael got in contact with the Lion’s clinic. It’s usually hard to get an appointment, and Myles got one within a week.”
Myles stepped up. “I called them and I said this is an emergency. This kid needs glasses now,” he said.
Lenscrafters ended up donating a pair of glasses.
“As soon as she got him the glasses, that reduced the behavioural issues,” Myles said. “Is he still disruptive to an extent? Yes. But it’s manageable. He’s not kicking kids anymore. He’s not doing things that are out there.”
This was the realisation – Amari needed glasses. And it has set off a chain of events that has been positive for Amari and his mother.
Now, when she spends time with Amari, it’s special.
“It’s most definitely most special time,” she said. “I try my best – because I work late hours – to spend as much time I can with him. For Easter, we went to the pool, we went Easter egg hunting – we just spent time.”
Their relationship is growing, becoming stronger.
“I thought I could just sort out one problem to relieve my stress a little bit, and I think I’ve established something with Amari,” Markeisha said. “And we’re still going. It’s not perfect. But it’s working.”
And this is why Markeisha is the model that Myles uses.
“As a single parent with two kids, she now has a good job that gives her some freedoms,” he said. “But ultimately she’s employed, she can now support herself…”
She’s also in a money management class to catch up on bills and properly budget her money.
And now she’s looking to buy a house. She wants a yard for her kids. She wants…
“Stability,” she said. “Right now, my focus is getting a stable home, a good place that I can put my two kids so they can feel like we’re just one.”
Myles wants more parents to reach out for help. He knows it can be difficult.
“It takes a lot of courage,” he said. “No one wants to admit that they went wrong. But it’s courageous to pull yourself out of it.”